Coaching Is Said To Beat Lectures

March 19, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Jack Novick doesn’t think computer classes are a waste of time — at least not a total waste.

But he told the Business Journal that he believes one-on-one coaching at the student’s workstation is a much more effective way to teach people how to use computers and software.

First, he said, coaching helps students retain far more information because they are putting lessons into practice in a familiar setting, learning on work they normally would do anyway.

Second, he contends that, at least from his firm’s perspective, coaching is about a third cheaper for the client company.

Novick is the founder of Novick & Associates, a Grand Rapids company that shows computer-users how to get the most out of Microsoft Office products and assorted other software.

He said the main problem in trying to teach classes in, say, Microsoft Word, is that students in a given class may range from old hands to rank novices. He said that means it’s impossible for such a class not to bore some people to tears while bewildering others, with little retention either way.

“Even by the time experienced people go back to the office — even if they took notes and intend to put it all to use — in a day or two they lose it all,” he said.

He recommends having a corporation buy a block of his time as a coach.

“Instead of your people having to take a morning or a day off and travel to a class, the coach comes to them in their cubicles for one-hour sessions.

“It’s customized. They learn only what they need, and they put what they learn into practice with their own work.”

Either for a typical class of eight or a three-hour block of coaching, he said, his firm’s charge would be $75 an hour, or $225.

But taking into account eight paid, but lost, man-hours, plus travel and even lunch, the class might cost the company about $400.

With coaching, he said, the firm loses three man-hours and pays nothing for travel or meals, so the cost totals out to just under $300.

“And the retention is far better,” he said, “for two reasons.

“First, they’re receiving the instruction in their own setting with familiar work. Second, the next day, I e-mail them with one to two pages of customized notes to help them keep using what they have learned.”

The primary aim of coaching, he said, is to show people shortcuts to use their computers more productively, and then to help them make the shortcuts permanent habits.

Novick, a native of Madison, Wis., who holds degrees in mathematics and education from the University of Wisconsin, has worked in college education and corporate training for 20 years.

He founded his firm five years ago.

He said the firm’s clientele lies throughout West Michigan and that some of the firms where he’s done coaching are The Right Place Inc., Wisinski Realty and Monarch Hydraulics.    

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